Early next month the Council Cabinet Sub Committee will make a decision that will change the face of education in Croydon. They will vote on whether to close Coulsdon High School on 31st August 2008 and transfer the staff, buildings, land and assets to the private sponsor Oasis, thus opening Croydon’s first City Academy on the 1st September 2008.
There is a public consultation ongoing presently, although how well consulted the public has been is open to question.
I attended the meeting held for the wider community last month. Anybody else who attended that meeting in the school hall would have probably come away with two vivid images:
The first one would be the rows and rows of empty seats. In fact one of the current Board of Governors counted only fifteen members of the public present. I have been advised that £100,000 of public money had been set aside for promoting this consultation. The time of year could explain the low turnout, but for me the overriding reason for the low turnout is the inevitably of the decision. In fact, this process is not a public consultation but a rubber stamping. Not a single elected politician is speaking up against this proposal. Within Croydon Council there are seventy councillors – all of them either Conservative or Labour. Both their parties favour City Academies, so where is the political opposition going to come from? The impression given by council officers is that Coulsdon High is a failing school but this not the case. It has come out of special measures with significant areas of strength. By its own admission the council can only consider whether a school should become a City Academy, run by private sponsor with public money, “if it goes into special measures”, but what if it comes out of special measures with flying colours? Why is this being overlooked?
The second image that I and others that attended the consultation will have come away with is of the stirring presentation given by Rev Steve Chalke. Mr Chalke oozes in charisma. When I and others questioned him at the end of his presentation, he responded with all the skill and guile of the most able of politicians. He definitely does not lack conviction in what he believes. However, conviction and charisma does not automatically equal success. One only needs to refer to our previous Prime Minister and his belief that invading Iraq was the “right thing to do” to reaffirm this point.
The council in there wisdom have decided on this roadmap for the boroughs first City Academy. In addition, they have opted for Oasis, a private sponsor without a track record, to open this new type of school within a year. I am sure that Mr Chalke would prefer a longer period of transition. He mentioned in his presentation that Oasis had worked closely for several years with a school in Grimsby, before taking it over in September 2007.
It is important that concerned residents complete the Coulsdon High Consultation Questionnaire which can be found on the council web site.
The councillors that will make the decision to approve the closure of Coulsdon High and the opening of Oasis Academy Coulsdon should recognise the risks and costs involved. One thing is for sure: local parents will never forgive them if this supposed oasis ends up being a mirage.
Croydon Green Party
Tags croydon, greenparty